Lockheed Discusses F-16 Upgrade for Korea, Other Nations

 - February 19, 2015, 1:17 PM
Lockheed Martin wants to leverage its investment on Taiwan's F-16 upgrade for other customers, including possibly the U.S. Air Force. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Lockheed Martin is taking part in discussions with the U.S. and Korean governments to upgrade Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-16s and is also eyeing a potential requirement to upgrade the fleet operated by Greece’s Hellenic Air Force. It expects a nation in Asia which AIN understands to be Singapore to announce an F-16 upgrade program soon.

Talks continue to upgrade the ROKAF’s 134 F-16s, a program originally awarded to BAE Systems, with a Raytheon AESA radar as part of the package. In November, Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration abandoned the selection of BAE after the U.S. government increased the price of the foreign military sale. “We are in discussions with both governments to define the program within the budget that’s been identified,” said Roderick McLean, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-16/F-22 integrated fighter group. “We feel confident that we can meet their requirements, so it’s just a point of continuing the dialogue, finalizing the requirements to move forward with the program.”

During a briefing at Lockheed Martin’s annual media day in Arlington, Va., McLean said the company is awaiting movement on Greece’s requirement to upgrade some 155 F-16 Block 30/50/52 fighters, a program for which it expects Boeing to compete. Boeing expressed interest in the program during a first round of discussions last year, he said. “We’ve been informed that BAE is no longer interested in the F-16 upgrade market, but we still see competition from Boeing,” he added. “They are, I’m sure, positioning themselves to pursue the Greece Hellenic Air Force upgrade.”

Lockheed Martin wants to “find ways to leverage” its investment in the F-16V upgrade for Taiwan’s air force in the international market and possibly for the U.S. Air Force, McLean said. The F-16V incorporates the Northrop Grumman APG-83 scalable agile beam radar, a mission computer upgrade and Elbit 6 by 8 center pedestal display.

The company also sees a potential market for 50 new-build F-16s which, in total, would extend the fighter’s production line in Fort Worth, Texas, by another three years, McLean said. Among the interested parties are two countries in the Middle East.

Lockheed Martin is currently producing one F-16 per month at Fort Worth, where the company also builds the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-16 program has already reduced its space and production rate to accommodate the F-35 and is not being asked to cede more capacity as that program ramps up production. “There’s no near term pressure for us to further reduce our footprint,” McLean said.